Professional commercial photography can help a company to look its best.

Commercial photography covers everything from fashion shoots, to corporate ad campaigns. It includes brochure photos, and pictures found on commercial websites.

To some freelance photographers, a commercial photoshoot may sound daunting, but actually, photoshoots can be a lot of fun! Knowing how to arrange a photoshoot allows you to be prepared when that first corporate client comes your way.

In this article, we look at what happens behind the scenes, before a commercial photoshoot.

Commercial Photography: Booking the Photo Shoot

When a client asks about the cost of a photoshoot, try to arrange to meet with them.

The price of a commercial photoshoot varies depending on the type of shoot it is, and what is involved. When meeting with your client, ask questions. What type of shoot is it? Will they source the models and stylists? What about location, and insurance, will they provide that or will you? Remember to take notes.

Once you know the answers and your client agrees to go further, you can create the estimate.

Pricing

When pricing commercial photography, avoid charging a standard ‘day rate.’ A day rate may seem like an easy way to set rates, but it isn’t an accurate pricing method because each photoshoot has a different value.

It’s better to base photoshoot prices on your cost of doing business (CODB). Factoring your CODB into each shoot, allows you to be certain you are making a profit.

To find your CODB, evaluate your fixed business expenses. Then add your costs involved with the photoshoot. Evaluate hours of prep, driving, shooting, post-processing, development, interaction, equipment costs, and time. Include studio fees, insurance, and models or hairstylists/makeup artists. Don’t forget to charge a licensing fee for your photos. This allows the client specific use of your images.

After determining your expenses, add at least 15% to this as your profit margin. You can adjust this percentage on a per-assignment basis, depending on a project’s difficulty.

Be specific with estimates. Creating a breakdown shows the client exactly what they are purchasing. Try presenting clients with a couple of options, allowing them to choose the package they want.

Don’t sell yourself short. Leave room in the estimate to over-deliver. If your estimate includes 20 photos, deliver 25. Always overestimate by 10% to cover unexpected expenses.

Organizing the Shoot

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Once the client agrees to the shoot, start scheduling. Use a schedule or online calendar to schedule photoshoots and important tasks involved.

2-3 Weeks Before the Shoot

  • Find and secure a location for the photoshoot. Make sure the location has enough outlets for lighting equipment, and find out how long you have the studio for.
  • If it’s a fashion shoot, scout out models, stylists, and makeup artists.
  • Purchase an insurance policy.
  • Organize contracts and model release forms.
  • Locate props and ensure that the wardrobe is taken care of.
  • Create a production notebook. This helps a photoshoot go according to plan. Include types of shots needed, and information on everyone involved with the shoot. For more on production notebooks, check out this article.
  • Create a photoshoot schedule. Include times for models and stylists to arrive, and prep.

Day Before the Shoot

  • Organize the equipment you will bring: lights, strobes, reflectors, diffusers, flashes. Charge batteries, empty the memory cards, and clean the lenses.
  • Go to the location to bring in gear, set up lighting, and familiarize yourself with the set.
  • Ensure props, wardrobe, other items are on location.

Day of the Shoot

  • Arrive early. This allows you to set up last minute equipment, and adjust your camera settings before the client and production crew arrive.
  • Production crew and models arrive. Contracts and model releases signed. Prep time.
  • Have the production notebook on-set, and ensure everyone has copies of the photoshoot schedule. Go over the schedule so everyone knows what is happening.
  • If your shoot involves models, allow warm up time. It takes time for people to feel comfortable in front of the camera.
  • Lights, camera, action! Keep on schedule. Some photographers find it helpful to set alarms on their phone, so they know when to move on in the photoshoot.

Remember to stay professional, and have fun. Helping keep everyone at ease creates better photos, and means your client will be more likely to call you next time they need a photoshoot.

Have you done a commercial photoshoot? Tell us how it went!